Dear all,

First, manager tools is really wonderful, please keep up the great work! MT is important for me as I'm a new manager and my organization does not believe
in staff training courses (despite me asking).

When I first started, I had a tough situation and would like advice on how I could have dealt with it better, so I can learn for the future.

My first day, my boss took me aside for a one-on-one and told me my team (2 people) could not work with each other. They had even been separated into separate rooms as they now refused to work together. My boss admitted failure in the situation.

Considering I was:
* a brand new (female) manager
* new to the company
* both directs (male) were older than me, with experience in the field to which I was new (one had been in the company 6 years)

I wondered: how I was supposed to fix an issue that my boss had already admitted failure in?!

Since my 2 directs were not speaking, I implemented a form of 'one on ones' ( happy to hear from your podcasts that this was a good step!). I did try the odd team meeting but found it so unproductive as the atmosphere was so strained and the directs resistant.
I went to get advice from my boss, to which the reply was: well, one of them has to go as your life will be a nightmare. Pick one.

One direct's contract was almost up (2 months to go) but a promise had been made that they would get a permanat role, the other, more experienced direct had a permananent role already. Not surprisingly, a promise was broken and the fixed term contract report with less experience -lost out and was asked to leave at the end of their term.

I felt pretty terrible about the whole thing and all this was within the first 90 days! (the rule of no change for new managers?!)

This situation produced a bad feeling, also with the remaining staff member (there was also probably also some organization-wide gossip about me). Not to mention that the remaining staff member had actually wanted my job (being also several years my elder!). When I finally got a green light to re-hire a new direct (to bring the team back to 2 again) the new person was hearing these terrible stories from the disgruntled remaining staff member. Thus passing on 'bad feeling' and resistance and not to mention fear of being fired, to the new person. Leading to an ongoing cycle of poor performance.

I would love to know how I could have handled this better. What more could I have done? Perhaps keeping the younger, but more enthusiatic staff member would have been better? Or refuse to fire anyone and renew the short term contact on condition of working towards sorting out the team issue?  I also felt like I had been dumped on and used as a scapegoat. Should I have put more pressure on my boss to sort out the mess? but then I didn't want to see like I was 'afraid' to deal with the situation and just passing it on someone else...

Suggestions would be more than welcome, as i'm keen to be a good boss and a good manager and I feel that currently I get no advice or support (or good role models) on how to do that!    I wish I had found MT earlier! Thanks.

Chris.Lodge's picture

Sounds like you were dumped on by your boss to make the hard choices, while they came out of this smelling of roses.

But remember, you were the best person for the job, that’s why they hired you over the other person.
I don’t know the exact details of the problems between them, but I think at the end of the day I would have focused on the quality of work they were doing. Was it affected?

qui001's picture

Hi, thanks so much for your feedback.

I think the problems stemmed from a classic personality clash, I would say a high D/I vs a high S/C situation. Just very, very different people, and different approaches to the same topic. At one point they were doing the same peice of work in parallel, in each of their own ways and then ended up in a conflict about who was right and which document to submit.

A complete separation of tasks is what resulted, however there was more work  in one area (demand was high for technical protocols), and one of them (the high S/C) was getting swamped whilst the other high D/I was networking and lunching for his one and only project  - thus creating more tension and frustration.

How to better distribute the tasks, with only 2 people, and demand for technical work? I ended up taking on extra to help the high S/C person but I'm not sure that was a good approach. Delegation to outside our group was not an option since we were very specialied expertise.

Any other suggestion on how better to handle this is welcome!

dickgent's picture

In a similar position when I got hired, I followed the pod-cast advice... Behaviors Matter. You can't manage or change someone's attitude. That change must come from within.   Make it clear to them that you expect INTEGRITY, KINDNESS, AND RESULTS in that order (Paraphrasing from Mark obviously).  Once your actions make that clear to your direct, you will see a change in their behavior (It worked for me).   Listen to the podcast on "Handling a Difficult Direct". Also the coaching dilemma podcasts.  And above all, if after your attempts the direct fails to modify his/her behavior and has a detrimental impact on the team... Pull the trigger.  Your O3 minutes with the direct will support your decision. Good Luck

Chris.Lodge's picture

Remember that DISC is not a personality profile, but the way a person communicates in a given circumstance. This is based on if you feel that the situation is favourable or not and if you feel you have the power or not.

As you were new, you may well have been in “S” mode i.e. more conciliatory and supportive to other’s ideas then you normally are (especially if you usually react in a D way)
Now when you look back on what has happened you wish you did something different and probably would if you had been there a while.
I don’t think what happened was wrong and you could have done better, it may be just that it not your usual reaction.

naraa's picture
Training Badge

 Perhaps you could have done something different, but these two are grown ups and they got into the mess they were in all by themselves.  It takes two to have a fight, and it takes two to stop talking to each other.  You could not possibly have identified who started the mess!  The guy with the contract almost up was really naive.  To get the promised permanent role he had to do his part, and getting to a situation you don't talk to your coworker is not doing his part.  Don't feel guilty about it.  In a sence the situation just unfold itself within the first 90 days. 

Dont focus on the problem anymore, it is passed, there is nothing you can change about the past.  And stop seeing the bad side of the situation because just as well there is a good side.  Remember there are two conditions for firing: 1- not performing, 2 - tearing down the team.  Át. Least your directs know about that now.  And rather than feeling guilty make sure the two of them get the message right that you are a team and must work as a team.

My experience, female manager with male older than me directs, has been that the problems in manage them had more to do with my own estigmas and insecurities rather then theirs.  Forget they are male and forget they are older, picture them as young teenagers or young women and manage them confortably as you would be with somebody younger and with other females.

The thing you can learn from it is not to have fear.  Access the situation, have a vision of where you want to go and then act towards getting there.  And Once you take a decision don't keep questioning whether you should have done something else.  Leave the past in the past.  You still need to find that vision for your team as you seem to have a performance problem. And you must get rid of your fear of not doing the right thing and not being liked or people gossiping about you.  Forget all of that and just focus on one-on-one, coaching, feedback.  Focus on the people with a clear vision of the results you want to accomplish with them.  And do have those staff meetings even if they are unconfortable or unproductive because you must encourage a relationship between your directs.

Good luck and let us know how you are doing!


qui001's picture

Dear both, thanks very much for your advice, appreciate it.

STEVENM's picture

Sounds rough...

I think what I would have done was meet with each individually.  Express that I wanted the team to be a team again, ask them to at least try to work together, etc.  Odds are any olive branches would have been slapped away by the other if they were so against each other they wouldn't speak, but it would let you know who was willing to try. 

Performance and skills will matter.  So maybe you were locked into your choice.  But there's a .01% chance it works out.  Great if so.  If not, odds are one would at least make the attempt.  That's the one I'd keep if I had the freedom to choose based on the demands of the team.  If neither did, I'd go for performance.

qui001's picture

Thanks everyone.

You're right about the fear of 'not getting it exactly right'.

I think I also feel unsure of my actions due to the fact that I am working in another country (Belgium) that is not my own (UK). Its highly unionized here and the work ethic of people is different from what I am used to. So at times I have been accused of inappropriate actions or being 'too harsh' when in my opinion my actions (and feedback) were perfectly reasonable. I've noticed here that managers rarely give what I would consider open feedback, as they are afraid it is taken as a personal attack by the staff. Instead they try to say things without saying them - or simply just don't say anything at all and let matters unfold by themselves.

To follow up, one of the guys did express a willingness to work things out. He was the one that I kept. He was also demonstrating better performance so I guess it was an obvious choice in the end.

Thanks again everyone.


naraa's picture
Training Badge

 Qui001, I work in a country, not my own, where also people read between the lines.  Sometimes what is not said is more important than what was actually said.  I've never tried to read between the lines though. It makes things too complicated where they can be so simple.  In my first year here I used to hear all the time that I didn't understand the countries idiosyncrasy.  I used to think to myself that it would do these persons, because really i only heard from a couple of people, really good if they started accepting other ways of getting staff done too. I never said anything though. Eventually I stopped hearing that comment. Either I learned it, or they accepted it.  I think it was the second one.  I have been here 9 years now and I have been effective managing people. 

somethings that I have done though is to incorporate in my feedback comments that for me are obvious but for them may not be so.  For example, for me it is obvious that a feedback is for the future because one cannot change past behaviour.  But for them they were too focus on explaining themselves, justifying and finding the guilty cause in the past.  So I add something explicit: for the future, next time the start and repeat again at the end of the feedback.

i am also very direct and I think being direct and straightforward actually builds trust (one of the 13 behaviors on the speed of trust by Steven covey).  I don't think you need to change your way of speaking and dealing with issues.  What I do think helps though is to acknowledge that the way you say things could be perceived differently, as that really helps you, guides you to make the double effort to be clear and Show respect. Don't make any judgements of people's intention if they don't act as you would and ask people not to make any judgement of yours.  

Don't put labels on them, and don't let that label people put on you from being from the uk detain you from doing what needs to be done.  Do understand though what that label is.  I was in England once looking at some old buildings and the taxi driver reading my mind tells me: "and once they used to rule the world...."  It is the stereotype most people outside uk will have from people from uk, that once they rule the world, they don't anymore, but they still have that aura that they did.  So, something that you used to say in England could be well accepted, but now in Belgium not you, but other people may perceive what you say with a superiority aura.

First year I was in chile, after 6 in Australia and being from brazil I thought I was stepping on eggs. You will break eggs, but soon enough it won't matter as much to you and it won't matter as much to them. because you will have establish a relationship with each one of them.  

harnod's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge


Disclaimer: I have not read any of the other comments so I may repeat.

BLUF: go ahead with what you started.

My comment would be, do not analyze what you could have done differently.  

If you want to involve your boss, present a solution to them and have it approved. Still, for any hiring, termination, layoff, you ARE responsible to your directs. This cannot be avoided and you should be able to say "yes, this was my decision".

As Mark says, one of the two reasons to get in trouble with him is to poison the team, which is what your old-timer is doing. It is your role to stop this. Feedback, feedback, feedback,... firing. 

If you have a tough reputation in the company, do not allow yourself to be worried about it. Imagine your new direct when that "evil manager" gives them positive feedback :-)... several times.... perhaps, they will start questioning the disgruntled direct's BS.

1on1s, feedback, these are your best weapons.

Please let us know how you progress. 


qui001's picture

Dear all,

thanks again for all your advise and support, I appreciate it. The goal for me is to improve!

To make a long story short, after another difficult experience with a new person who joined the unit, I have been removed from being a manager. it was not all attributed to me as other people including HR department recognized the performance issues and poor behaviour of the new girl (although they did nothing about it!). i think actually that is mostly the issue, she knows the management is ineffectual and that she can get away with poor behaviour- maybe she knew she could get around me since i was not supported.

so the situation is now my direct and I report to the same boss as part of a restructuring.

now  its been announced there will be a new head of department.

so my question is, what do I do now?

I may have made some mistakes along the way, i recognise that, and its also how we learn. at least i always gave 100 percent. I also asked for support such as training and I never received it. I feel i was let down by my manager.

It hit my confidence, particularly since this was my first try at management.

I don't think i was that awful at it, i have seen worse. Also i think i have the capacity to be a good manager, with time , experience and training.

is the only option to try again in another place? How can I try to regain my confidence and get more experience given the current situation? right now i'm doubting if management is for me at all, but i do not go that way it will seriously limit my career options.

advise is welcome!


STEVENM's picture

Sorry to hear it.  If it was considered not your fault (manager above you having tried and failed also, that kind of thing) what was their official reason for undoing the move to management?

What to do now:

First thing I notice is you talk about the career options, and that you feel you could do management.  Do you want to though?  I'm not trying to talk you out of things here at all, but it's worth asking.  Is this what you want, or what you feel you have to do?

If it isn't what you want, explore.  Find what you do want.  If it is what you want, though, don't consider the experience over just yet.  Go to your boss.  Ask for a debriefing, find out where they feel you could have tweaked your actions to get better results.  Ask what you can do to be ready next time if you weren't quite there this one.  Work on things.  Do the same with anyone you can think of who might have valuable info.  Maybe that's HR, or someone else, or only the boss.

And yes, it may be easier to find that next time elsewhere.  Not impossible to find it there though.  It depends on the culture, and the people there.

As for confidence... best I can do there is anecdotal:

I'm consistently aiming for jobs that are above me.  If I see a move up I think I'd be capable of 'getting there, eventually' even if I couldn't hit the ground running I apply.  And usually the first time I interview I bomb.  I don't know what's expected, I don't have the experience they're looking for, and I struggle to find ways to demonstrate that I'm smarter than average and motivated to do things.  Just coming out and saying it sounds hokey, and any of the quantifiable things I have thought of are lines I don't want to cross (It seems like telling someone your IQ would be bad form, haha).

And it's good for me.  I learn from the first interview, I get further the next time.  Some people might say I'm "faking it" until I can get in but with each interview I think I put together more of the puzzle for that level.  I just enter into it as a learning experience instead of fully investing myself in getting THAT job, THAT time.  It doesn't seem to be taking too long for those efforts to start bearing fruit.  Opportunities seem to be opening up faster and more often.

Treat it as education on management, not a lost job.  It's not a fun thing to hear, but sometimes the best professional skill you can learn is how to take a blow to the face and not get emotional or fall down for long.  Or so my experience tells me.